Blu-ray Highlights: Week of April 13th, 2014 – Murders Don’t Come Any Neater

Classic film noir makes a strong showing on Blu-ray this week, as a couple masterpieces of the genre finally appear on the format. Some newer movies are available too, of course, if the prospect of black & white scares you.

Which Blu-rays Interest You This Week (4/15/14)?

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New Releases

Philomena‘ – Even if the movie never stood a chance of winning any of the Oscars it was nominated for earlier this year, it’s nice to see Stephen Frears be relevant again. The director has made a number of terrific films in his career, yet is rarely thought of in the ranks of auteurs. (Admittedly, he’s made some duds as well.) This one was written by star Steve Coogan, who takes a dramatic turn as a reporter working on a human interest story about an elderly woman (Judi Dench) searching for the son stolen from her decades earlier.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty‘ – Ben Stiller’s latest directorial effort was promoted as the family event movie of the Christmas season. Despite generally supportive reviews, it didn’t make quite as big a splash as the studio hoped. Honestly, I’d forgotten about it until seeing it listed here. It has to be better than those awful ‘Night at the Museum’ movies, doesn’t it?

Ride Along‘ – After years of Hollywood trying to make him happen, it looks like comedian Kevin Hart finally got his wish to be a proper movie star. All it took was a generic buddy-cop action comedy in which he’s paired up with a grumpy Ice Cube. Yes, that’s the same Ice Cube who infamously sang “Fuck the Police” in an impassioned, angry rant against police harassment and brutality, now starring as a lovably cranky cop who jokes about beating people up. The audiences that made a big hit out of this movie were apparently unaware of the concept of irony.

The Nut Job‘ – A bunch of squirrels plan a heist on a nut store in a lame animated comedy that has basically the same plot as ‘Over the Hedge’. It’s in 3D. Whoop-de-doo.

Black Nativity‘ – No, you’ve got the wrong movie. You’re thinking of ‘The Best Man Holiday’. This is a different one. This one’s a musical with gospel singing and Forest Whitaker.

The Invisible Woman‘ – The title is metaphorical. It’s not a Syfy Channel flick or a ‘Fantastic Four’ spin-off. Ralph Fiennes follows up his directorial debut ‘Coriolanus‘ with a period piece about the woman (Felicity Jones) who had a secret affair with author Charles Dickens (Fiennes). Reviews were mixed.

Great Expectations‘ – Speaking of Dickens and Ralph Fiennes, the actor also appeared as Magwitch in the latest adaptation of ‘Great Expectations’. Helena Bonham Carter plays Miss Havisham. Considering that I’d never heard a single word about the existence of this movie until the Blu-ray release, that’s probably not a promising sign. When I first saw the listing, I assumed that it was Alfonso Cuaron’s flawed but interesting 1998 version with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow. Instead, this one was helmed by another ‘Harry Potter’ director, Mike Newell.

Catalog Titles

Here comes the noir. The two must-own titles of the week are catalog releases of Billy Wilder’s masterful ‘Double Indemnity‘ and Orson Welles’ ‘Touch of Evil‘. The latter includes three versions of the film: the original theatrical cut that was compromised by studio meddling, an unfinished “Preview” cut, and the 1998 reconstruction based on Welles’ detailed complaint memo to the studio.

If not quite as famous, Douglas Sirk’s 1948 noir ‘Sleep, My Love‘ also hits Blu-ray courtesy of Olive Films.

Fans of Lars von Trier will often cite ‘Breaking the Waves‘ as the director’s masterpiece. I am not a fan of Lars von Trier and have extremely little patience for his misogyny, which is in perhaps its fullest flourish with this tale of a mentally incompetent woman (a staple of von Trier’s cinematic output) ordered by God to become a slut so that her perverted, paraplegic husband can get off listening to her stories about having sex with other men. Needless to say, the film is divisive. If you want to decide for yourself, the Criterion Collection makes a case for it. I choose to pass.

The first feature-length film by surrealist Czech animator Jan Švankmajer, his 1988 ‘Alice‘ is a very loose retelling of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ that blends live action with stop-motion animation. At the time of this writing, I’m having trouble finding much information on the domestic Blu-ray release from First Run Features in comparison to the supplement-packed edition that was released in the UK a few years ago by BFI.

Presumably intended to piggyback off ‘Walter Mitty’, Universal offers Ben Stiller’s directorial debut, the Gen-X rom-com/statement piece ‘Reality Bites‘. Also dredged up from the dank depths of the Universal archive is Kevin Smith’s dopey comedy ‘Mallrats‘, which should be met with great enthusiasm by the movie’s half dozen rabid fans.

I’m sure that I’ve neglected to mention some important title that you’re very excited to see released this week. Tell me what I’ve missed in the Comments below.


  1. William Henley

    I already have Heaven’s Lost Property Seasons 1 and 2, so not really sure why Funimation is double dipping it.

    I ordered Alice as I lost my UK version, but kinda wished I had just got the UK version again. Reviews are saying the US is barebones – no menu, just a couple of trailers for other releases by this ditribution company, and the movie, What is REALLY annoying is that it looks like, from the one review i read, that the US version does not have the original Czeck language track. What the heck? They are apparently using the BFI video restoration, though. I had it preordered, and it is already in transit, otherwise I would cancel and order the British version. If the US release is really as bad as I am hearing, I may turn around and sell it and reorder the movie from the UK.

    As I had the UK version, and am getting the US version, if you guys don’t get a review copy, I would be willing to write up an article comparing the two releases.

  2. Timcharger

    Josh: “that’s the same Ice Cube who infamously sang “Fuck the Police” in an impassioned, angry rant against police harassment and brutality, now starring as a lovably cranky cop who jokes about beating people up. The audiences that made a big hit out of this movie were apparently unaware of the concept of irony.”

    It’s all about getting paid.

    When you’re scratching to make a living, oppression, racism, police brutality are
    objects to rally against. But when you’re getting paid…

    I don’t fault the audience for the irony. The fault lies with Cube here.

    But I do fault the audience for watching crappy movies.

  3. EM

    I’m up for Double Indemnity, at least pending a review of the transfer. Now if only I could get the Carol Burnett parody (on DVD, anyway)!

    Alice is an interesting experience, as Švankmajer films usually are. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again.

  4. I can confirm that the US release of Alice is about as bare bones as they come. The video is from the BFI release, but only the English dub is included. There isn’t a single bonus feature. There are two trailers for other movies included. Highly disappointed.

    I can confirm the UK release is region free (the blu-ray is, the included DVD is region locked). Just important this from the UK. I’m going to unload this mess and get the UK version again.

    • EM

      Ah. It’s the original Czech audio I would want to experience. If I could remove my vote above for the new Blu, I would.

      • William Henley

        The one on isn’t shipped by Amazon, so VAT isn’t removed, and shipping is 3.99GBP. On Zaavi, it is like half a pound more, but shipping is only 0.99GBP, so Zaavi is the cheapest place to order from, and it brings it to about the same price as the domestic release

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